The 1915 Mason & Hamlin piano that takes center stage in Paul Ybarbo’s Nob Hill living room isn’t just an indication of his passion for playing classical music, it’s a symbol for his love of things both old and new.
“My piano teacher had grown up playing it. She’d had it in her family for 40 years,” Ybarbo says. “For me, playing the piano is an escape, and it’s all about me and my relationship to the instrument.”
Ybarbo, a Realtor with Sotheby’s International, had fallen in love first with his 1920s-era building — the Clay-Jones — years ago and was sold on his place upon viewing the open space and classic feel of the one-bedroom flat.
“I’d admired the building for years — and I love this neighborhood. It has a certain buzz and energy,” he says. “The apartment had so much of its original architectural details and integrity in tact. It almost felt very New York to me.”
After moving in this past December, Ybarbo painted the apartment a rich, soothing shade of taupe to heighten its classic look, while highlighting the original moldings and details in the apartment. Throughout the flat, more modern pieces from the likes of Z Gallerie and Ikea are mixed with antique pieces, such as two 19th-century Belgian chairs with their original leather and a sleek cocktail cart that came from the old Letterman Hospital in the Presidio.
Overall, though, Ybarbo doesn’t discriminate on where his inspiration comes from, preferring an eclectic mix of textiles and textures that speaks directly to him. “If you see something that moves you, it doesn’t really
matter where it comes from,” he says.
Design aesthetic: Old meets new
Design highlights: Classic architectural details, opulent pieces mixed with modern lines, a focus on South American found objects and antiques, gothic accents
Favorite Room: The office. “I just love that I can store all my books in there”
Room where he spends the most time: The living room. “I have people over to entertain. I’m hosting a friend’s 40th birthday here in a few weeks.”
Prized possession: The piano. “When I play, it’s an escape. I can think about something other than work.”
Favorite design stores: “I really shop everywhere, from Gump’s to Z Gallerie to antique stores to IKEA and Target.
Favorite design publications: “This is one of my vices: I have stacks of magazines everywhere. I love Architectural Digest, Dwell, Elle Décor, Metropolitan Home and the city magazines.”